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Commonwealth v. Gooseby-Byrd

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 23, 2018

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
YVONNE DONNA GOOSEBY-BYRD, Appellant

          Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence May 25, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-23-CR-0007267-2016

          BEFORE: PANELLA, J., MURRAY, J., and STEVENS [*], P.J.E.

          OPINION

          MURRAY, J.

         Yvonne Gooseby-Byrd (Appellant) appeals from the judgment of sentence imposed after the trial court convicted her of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(a)(2). We affirm.

         The trial court recounted the facts as follows:

On August 19, 2016 at about 1:38 a.m., Officer Jonathan McGowan of the Lansdowne Borough Police Department was called to 73 East Greenwood Avenue to investigate a disturbance in the area. N.T., 5/25/17, p. 5, 25. He arrived at the location about two minutes after [the] initial call. Id. at 26. Upon his arrival he saw a silver sedan parked and occupied by three women who were arguing loudly. [Appellant] was in the driver's seat and two passengers were in the rear of the vehicle. Id. at 7-8, 26. Officer McGowan approached [Appellant] and told her that he was called to the area due to a complaint about noise and asked her to produce her driver's license, registration and proof of insurance. She provided her driver's license and a rental agreement for the vehicle bearing her name. Id. at 9, 31. Officer McGowan testified credibly that the vehicle was running with the keys in the ignition. Id. at 97. As he approached he saw that the vehicle's windshield was severely cracked. He asked about the damage and [Appellant] told him that a pedestrian jumped on the vehicle earlier when the group was leaving a club in West Philadelphia. Id. at 10, 27. [Appellant] told him that she did not drink alcohol at the club but that her sisters had. Id. at 9-10. She stated that they were in the neighborhood looking for a relative's house. During this interaction the officer detected the strong odor of alcohol coming from the passenger compartment. He also observed that [Appellant's] eyes were glassy and bloodshot and her speech was slurred. Her passengers exhibited the same features. Id. at 11.
Officer McGowan asked [Appellant] to exit the vehicle. She was unsteady on her feet, had a staggered gait as she walked to the back of her vehicle, [and was] using the vehicle for support. Three field sobriety tests followed and [Appellant] failed each of the tests. She participated in a preliminary breath test. The officer concluded that [Appellant] was incapable of safe driving and placed her under arrest. Id. at 11-16. Thereafter he read her an Implied Consent form which she signed, agreeing to blood testing. A blood test measured her BAC at .088%. Id. at 19-20. Throughout this entire episode, at no time did either [Appellant] or her sisters say that [Appellant] was not the driver of the vehicle. Id. at 32.
[At trial, Appellant] testified in her own defense and also offered the testimony of her sister, Linese, who was in the vehicle. Both women admitted that during the course of their interaction with McGowan, before and after the arrest, no one ever said that Linese was the driver of vehicle, not [Appellant]. Id. at 50, 87-90.

Trial Court Opinion, 9/20/17, at 4-6.

         Appellant was charged with DUI and a bench trial commenced on May 25, 2017. The same day, the trial court rendered its guilty verdict and sentenced Appellant to six months of probation plus costs and community service. N.T., 5/25/17, at 103-104. Appellant filed a motion for post-trial relief assailing the sufficiency of the evidence, as well as a motion for reconsideration of sentence. After a hearing on July 18, 2017, the trial court denied the motions. Appellant filed this timely appeal.

         Appellant presents a single issue for our review:

WHETHER THE EVIDENCE WAS INSUFFICIENT TO CONVICT [APPELLANT] OF DUI BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT WHERE THE TRIAL TESTIMONY PRECLUDED ANY LAWFUL INFERENCE THAT SHE WAS OPERATING, OR IN CONTROL OF THE VEHICLE IN QUESTION WHEN THE POLICE ARRIVED ON THE SCENE.

Appellant's Brief at 7.

         In reviewing a sufficiency claim, our Supreme ...


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